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Can we have your attention? Phillies vs. Nationals series preview

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Now that basketball season is over, the Phillies are the only show in town

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Philadelphia Phillies
A good showing by the Phillies could cause the stands at Citizens Bank Park to fill up once again
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

After an unsuccessful trip to the West coast, the Phillies are back home and back to intra-divisional play as they take on the Nationals for a two-game series. The Nationals have been hot, but most of that success came at their own stadium. Will a trip to Philadelphia serve to cool them down a bit? And more importantly, with the city of Philadelphia’s attention focused on them, will the Phillies prove themselves worthy?

Washington Nationals

Record: 33-36 (Third place in National League East)

The last time they met

After struggling against Max Scherzer, the Phillies spent the next two games scoring a lot of runs against other Nationals pitchers to take two out of three games.

Coming in hot

The Nationals have gone 8-3 over their last eleven games. Most recently, they took three out of four from the first place Mets, showing that the National League East may lack a lot of things, but parity isn’t one of them.

No more home cooking

The Nats’ recent success has gotten them back into the “thick” of the National League East race, but there are reasons to doubt its sustainability. The last eleven games were all played at Nationals Park, but they’ll now have to go on the road where they have been far less successful this season (12-18).

The Phillies have an even more drastic home/road split, but since these games will be played in Philadelphia, that’s a phenomenon that definitely benefits the Phillies.

Kyle Schwarber? In this economy?

The Nats have been carried by the unexpectedly hot bat of Kyle Schwarber. The last time we checked in with Kyle, he was struggling, and it looked like the Nats had made an unwise offseason acquisition. To the surprise of many, he’s since become a modern-day Barry Bonds, hitting five home runs in two days and nine in the past two weeks.

The burst corresponds to a move to the leadoff spot in the Nationals’ batting order. Typically, you don’t want your biggest power threat to be at the top of the order when there are fewer runners on base, but you can’t argue success.

There’s worry in Washington that the success could be fleeting. Schwarber has been dealing with knee soreness, and had to leave Sunday’s game early.

A lonely city turns its eyes to you

As you may have heard, the 76ers were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs on Sunday night. Which means that as far as major professional sports go, the Phillies are the only show in town for the next couple of months. Fan interest in the team has been tepid thus far (that’s what a decade of missing the playoffs gets you), but this is their chance to re-capture the city’s attention.

On the other hand, if they continue to muddle around at .500, or start to lose with more regularity, we’re probably going to be hearing more and more Eagles cheers at Citizens Bank Park (Not like they’re projected to be any better).

Not saying it’s a must win, but...

The Nationals have yet to announce a starter for Tuesday, which means they might be going with a bullpen game against Zack Wheeler. It’s hard to call a mid-June game a “must win” but if the Phillies do want to hold the fans attention for the remainder of the summer, it would be a good idea to win matchups like these.

Punchable face analysis

This time, I went with a guy the Phillies have traditionally shown no qualms about hitting: Erick Fedde.

MLB: Washington Nationals-Media Day Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Look at those cold, lifeless eyes. Fedde makes Mark Zuckerberg look human in comparison. It’s a good thing his appearances against the Phillies rarely last long (5.28 career ERA against them), because looking at him for too long is unsettling.

Trivia

Past series’ answer: For some reason, I never answered an earlier question from the Marlins series where I asked what three Marlins players from the franchise’s inaugural game went on to play for the Phillies. The answer is Alex Arias, Benito Santiago, and Jeff Conine. AlwaysSundayInPhilly was first to name all three.

Last series’ answer: Curt Schilling was the losing pitcher the first time the Phillies played at Oracle Park. Jabbanatic 44 referenced the correct answer, and I’ll count it, but next time, don’t get cute, and just name the player.

This series’ question: Who was the first Washington National to hit a home run against the Phillies? (To avoid confusion, any reference to the Nationals refers to the franchise from 2005 to present.)

What to expect

  • Juan Soto has done pretty well against most teams in his brief Major League career, but the Phillies have shown a complete inability to keep him in the yard. He’ll hit another home run this series.
  • Facing his old team after a day off seems like a perfect formula for Bryce Harper to start heating up.
  • He’s gone through a rough stretch lately, which means Vince Velasquez is due to turn in one of those six inning/two run performances that serve to preserve his spot in the rotation for a little bit longer.

Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series

Maybe other teams still value him highly, but I think it would be unwise to trade Ben Simmons this offseason. Unless team chemistry has been irreconcilably ruined, I’d let him come back next year and rebuild his trade value with his typically strong regular season numbers. At that point, if a Bradley Beal or another legitimate perimeter playmaker comes available, you use Simmons as the centerpiece of that deal.